Ghosts and the supernatural is a deeply rooted belief in Thai culture, it’s origins are dated well before the introduction of Buddhism when in fact the religion, rather the beliefs were devotion of animism.
In order for the new and old to co exist there was a merger of the two beliefs and the elements of animism is evident in modern day Buddhism.
Animism (from Latin anima "soul, life") is a philosophical, spiritual idea that souls or spirits exist not only in humans but also in animals, plants, rocks, natural phenomena such as thunder, geographic features such as mountains or rivers, or other entities of the natural environment.
Image via WikipediaDifferent forms of worship and ceremony are significant to people in almost every part of the country. People of all ages and backgrounds, will on a daily basis visit a temple. In the backstreet of Bangkok to they pay their respect to the shrine of "Mae Nak," a famous female spirit believed to have died more than 200 years ago.
According to local tales, Mae Nak's husband was called off to war when Mae Nak was pregnant and a short time later she and her child died during childbirth.
Image via WikipediaHer husband came home not knowing of the deaths and was cast under a spell which made him live with Mae Nak's ghost and their child. A visitor said "The story of Mae Nak has been passed on from family for generations, so believed to be sacred. A lot of Thai people believe in her and pray to her to bring happiness to their family and that they don't fight."
In another corner of the Thai capital, a group of believers gather every weekend at the Power of Life Center to communicate with spirits. They sit together in a circle, chant, sing and meditate, in an attempt to reach out to the ghosts.
Image by a_whisper_of_unremitting_demand via FlickrOnce connected, they can feel what the spirits have to say. During the session, many mediums are in tears as they feel the grief of the souls they contact.
Sathittham Pensuk, director of Power of Life Center, said, "I think the reason Thai people believe in ghosts and spirits is partly because we study the rule of Karma and Samsara, or birth and rebirth. It's a Buddhist belief. Ghosts and spirits, therefore, are the end of life and the beginning of another life as the spirit."
Meanwhile, a new exhibition opening in Bangkok trying to explain the origin of the beliefs, and how Thais cope with and learn from ghosts.
It shows that even though Thai people's fear and beliefs have evolved with the changing surroundings and modern technology, in daily life, ghosts and different kinds of spirits are still prevalent.
Spirits, derived from , are still omnipresent. Spirit houses are erected on the compound of every building to serve as dwellings to house and befriend the spirits who inhabited the original spot, and every morning offerings – in the form of fruit, drinks and incense sticks – are brought to pay respect to them.